For the fifth time, Adobe has released Lightroom, its professional photo-management app for Mac and Windows, as a free public beta. The program's upcoming version 5 is now available from the Adobe Labs Website until June 30. It offers a public preview of new features and tools that will be available in the final release, which is scheduled for later this year. The latest version offers major improvements in image quality and workflow, and a great number of user-requested enhancements.

Among the new features is the Advanced Healing Brush, which allows users to fix imperfections and remove unwanted objects from their images. With it, you can adjust the size of the brush and move it in precise paths to remove distracting elements and flaws--even those with irregular shapes.

Advanced healing brush

The new Upright tool analyzes images to automatically level horizons and straighten objects such as buildings to correct a keystone effect. This tool will straighten tilted images with a single click. While analyzing images, it detects skewed horizontal and vertical lines, and can straighten shots even where the horizon is hidden.

A Radial Gradient tool creates off-center or multiple vignette effects to help you better emphasize important parts of your image.

Smart Previews allow users to edit images without the original raw file, thus letting you work with images without needing to bring your entire library with you. Just generate the smaller Smart Preview files, make adjustments or metadata additions to the Smart Previews, and apply your changes to the full-size originals later.

Upright tool

The Video Slideshow function enables you to combine still images, video clips, and music into a single HD slideshow.

Upgrades to the program's Book module enhance the ability to create, customize, and order photo books with a variety of templates.

As is its practice with public betas, Adobe seeks comments from the community of professional and advanced-amateur photographers to improve the product for the final release. Adobe encourages users to file comments and complaints, ask questions, and suggest features. You do not have to own Lightroom or any other Adobe software package to participate in the public beta.

Lightroom 5 is compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.8, and Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 and Windows 8.

Radial gradient

Lightroom 4 is currently available as a stand-alone application for $150. It's also part of Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription program for the Creative Suite 6 slate of applications available for $50 per month.

Users can connect with the Lightroom team via Facebook or Twitter, or on the Adobe Lightroom blog. YouTube has a number of Lightroom how-to videos as well.